Posted by: Cap'n Fuzzy | April 27, 2016

Brewing Beer and Wine

As you may have already guessed from previous entries, I am cheap!  One of the most annoying features of living in Canada, apart from long winters and biting insects is the ridiculous cost of alcoholic beverages.  So, we are working on escaping as much of the winter as we can by sailing Hearts Content south for part of the year.  Biting insects are tough to avoid here in the warmer months.  Our strategy is to invest in good screening, plant and/or eat anything that will repel them and bathe frequently in wood smoke.

Not sure if captions will show up with pics so quick explanation.  We have brewed in unusual ways and unusual places, so why not on board the boat?  Above shows our pumpkin wine experience in the Veggie Shed, brewed in the pumpkins you can see hanging in plastic grocery bags from the ceiling..

So, cheap beer and wine!  Many years ago, one of my younger Brothers stayed with us, exchanging his Nephew minding services for room and board.  Now, he was younger but 6-1/2 feet tall and with the capacity for prodigous quantities of beer that I couldn’t afford to pay retail prices for.  A neighbor, Bob, got me started brewing beer and a few years ago, I added wine.  Result?  80% savings still today over commercial products.

My aim has always been to just brew an acceptable quality product for rock bottom prices and as little fuss as possible.  So, over the years I have tried various types of bottles, kegs, wine bags and so on, to reduce the labour to beer quantity ratio.  I just don’t enjoy washing and sanitizing boxes and boxes of bottles.  So, from 60 standard beer bottles, to 24 1 litre plastic growlers to 1 keg, you can see the direction I am heading.  Back in the early brewing days I tried plastic kegs but had all sorts of problems with pressure leaks and running out of CO2 at inconvenient times.

Now, trying to modify the process for cruising on Hearts Content, I am looking at stainless steel kegs, specifically the 5 gal “corny kegs”.  These are recycled soft drink pressure kegs, made by Cornelius or Firestone.  Many home brewers use them with CO2 cartridges or refillable CO2 cylinders to provide the carbonization.  For bottled brew I have always relied on adding a small amount of bottling sugar to restart limited fermentation to provide the natural effervescence.  I have even developed a bit of a taste for the sedimentation this produces in the bottles.  After all, it is pure brewers yeast, for which health food stores charge you good money to purchase as a dietary supplement.

So, keeping true to my cheapness, I plan to eschew the extra complexity and cost of the external CO2, in favour of brewing and carbonizing naturally.  As with bottles, if you use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of your brew during the brewing process, there is no guesswork about how much pressure will be created.  I have never had bottles explode, as some home brewers have.  Well, that is not completely true, I did have one glass stubby beer bottle crack around the bottom wear line where the bottles rub each other.  We were out of beer and I decided to accellerate the carbonization process on the batch just bottled by stacking the cases next to our forced air gas furnace!  Fortunately only one bottle was lost.  I’m sure it was mostly due to it being a very old, much reused bottle.

I have been told that that row of little bumps in the glass along the bottom edge of beer bottles are the way that bottlers know how many times it has been refilled.  Anyone know for sure?

My plan is to allocate enough space to store a total of four of the stainless kegs on board Hearts Content.  Two each for wine and beer.  Apparently they can be stored in any orientation.  Not sure about dispensing.  For the rest of the brewing kit I plan to use just two primary type plastic brewing containers, one with a lid.  This allows nesting them together to stow in the quarterberth and strap in place.  All other equipment, like stirring tool, wine and beer kits, sugar, siphon tubing, wine thief etc will fit into the nested primary containers.

So, how far will 12 US gallons of beer and wine take the doughty Hearts Content crew?  Stay tuned.

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